The 2019 Boston Red Sox ended the regular season with 84 wins and 78 losses following a walk off victory against the Baltimore Orioles on September 29th. They were eliminated from postseason contention on September 20th following a loss against the Tampa Bay Rays. Last year, the 2018 Red Sox finished their season with 108 wins and 54 losses. They set a franchise record for most wins in a season and won the most games in the regular season by any MLB team since the Seattle Mariners in 2001. In the postseason, they defeated the New York Yankees in four games, the Houston Astros in five games, and the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games to give them their fourth World Series trophy in 15 years.
The Red Sox started this season with virtually the same roster as last year. The only notable exceptions being closer Craig Kimbrel who declined a $17 million-dollar 1-year offer from the franchise, reliever Joe Kelly who signed with the Dodgers, starter Drew Pomeranz who signed with the Giants, and 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler who signed with the Padres.
The Red Sox struggled in spring training finishing with a record of 12 wins and 17 losses. This was partially attributed to manager Alex Cora’s plan to limit the starting rotation’s appearances. His logic being that since those players were coming off a championship, they had a shorter period of rest. Eduardo Rodriguez was the only member of the starting rotation to have a normal spring training regimen, having pitched four starts and more than 15 innings. Red Sox ace Chris Sale pitched four fewer innings than he did the previous spring training, as did Rick Porcello. Even less were David Price and post-season hero Nathan Eovaldi who went seven or less innings each.
Without a proper spring training regimen, the Red Sox starting rotation failed to build up their arm strength and shake off the rust before stepping on the mound in the regular season. Sale posted a career worst 4.40 ERA in 25 starts before being shut down in mid-August due to a left elbow injury. Price started off the season strong, however he faltered in the second half of the season before being shut down in September due to a wrist cyst. Price ended with an ERA of 4.28, his worst since posting a 4.42 ERA in 2009 while he was with the Rays. 2016 Cy Young winner Porcello remained healthy for the entire season, yet, was inconsistent throughout the entire year finishing with a 5.52 ERA. Porcello became a free agent after the 2019 season, and it is unlikely that he will be re–signed by the Red Sox. Eovaldi hit the injured list after his start against the Yankees on April 17th and immediately underwent surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow. Eovaldi returned in late June, pitching out of the bullpen, however he was not the lights out pitcher he was during the World Series. Eovaldi eventually transferred back into the starter role finishing the season with a 5.99 ERA.
The most dominant starting pitcher this season was southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez who posted a career best 3.81 ERA through 203 innings pitched. Rodriguez was chasing his 20th win of the season on the last day of the regular season against the Orioles, however a late lead was blown by the bullpen therefore earning Rodriguez a no-decision. Regardless of the statistics, Rodriguez was the most consistent and dominant pitcher among the starting rotation. Through NESN’s postgame coverage, manager Alex Cora commented, “We’re very proud of him. 3.81 ERA and 200-plus innings. He gives us chances to win since I think Houston (game). He’s going to get better. I don’t feel that he’s going to be satisfied… try to improve a few things, the breaking ball is going to be part of the mix. We’re very proud of him.”
Offensively, the 2019 Red Sox hit more home runs and scored more runs than they did in the 2018 season. They lead the league in doubles with 344, placed third in batting average at .269, and placed fourth in runs scored with 896. Third baseman Rafael Devers lead the team with a .311 batting average having also driven in 201 runs. Designated hitter JD Martinez lead the club with 36 home runs, while short stop Xander Bogarts lead the club with 177 runs batted in. Despite these figures, the offense struggled to perform in high leverage situations, particularly in the later innings and was ultimately not strong enough to back up an inconsistent pitching staff.
Facing the difficult task of facing the Yankees and the Rays, who held first and second place in the AL East for much of the season, two times each in the course of two weeks, the club had their most dominant stretch of the season. In the first two series against each club, the Red Sox won the series against the Rays two games to one and three to one against the Yankees. This stretch of dominance was foiled the second time the club faced their rivals suffering back to back sweeps. When they entered this stretch, the Red sox were eight games back from first place in the AL East, falling to 14.5 games back by the end of the stretch.
The season was not a complete loss however, as it saw the emergence of several players. Relief pitcher Brandon Workman posted a 1.88 ERA over 71 innings pitched filling the vacant closer role previously held by Craig Kimbrel. Infielder Michael Chavis made his major league debut on April 20th against the Rays, hitting a double and setting the Red Sox up for a 6-5 victory. He went on the injured list in early August finishing his rookie season with 18 home runs, 58 runs batted in, and an average of .254. Devers hit just .240 in 2018, however he quickly developed into the Red Sox batting average leader in 2019 hitting .311 with 54 doubles and 32 home runs.
About a week before the end of the regular season, Red Sox ownership stated their desire to cut payroll to put the club back under the MLB’s competitive balance tax threshold. This means that around $40 million dollars will have to be cut from payroll making it difficult for the club to retain several big-name players in 2020. The club has already indicated that it will be difficult to retain Mookie Betts as they would not be able to afford to re–sign him when he becomes a free agent at the end of the 2020 season. JD Martinez has indicated that he does not believe the Red Sox can afford to keep Betts stating, “I think everyone knows we don’t think they’re going to be able to afford Mookie. It’s one of those things. It’s hard to have three guys making $30 million on your team.”
Speaking of Martinez, the designated hitter has the option to opt out of his contract with the Red Sox in the days after the end of the 2019 World Series. In free agency, Martinez would have the ability to try and exceed on the $62 million dollars he will be due if he decides to stay with Boston. In recent statements, Martinez has indicated that he may opt out stating, “I don’t mind moving around. I kind of like it.”
It is hard to imagine that the Red Sox organization would be able to keep both Betts and Martinez on the roster when they have already indicated their desire to cut back their payroll. For Red Sox fans, this could result in a heartbreaking and disappointing offseason following a heartbreaking and disappointing regular season.
The 2019 Red Sox season was best summed up by manager Cora who said that they were, “…very consistent in being inconsistent.”